I comment frequently about how vibrant and diverse Las Vegas’ Japanese dining scene has become in recent years. I can’t remember a decent Japanese meal I had in the first year after I moved here other than the one I had at Nobu. Today though, I only have time to eat at a fraction of the interesting new Japanese spots that are opening. Here are my three latest visits:
Itsy Bitsy Ramen and Whiskey
If there’s a ground zero for Downtown cool, it has to be the Ogden, so its residents deserve a super-cool restaurant. And Itsy Bitsy delivers. Full disclosure: The joint belongs to the owners of this magazine—but they don’t pay me enough to lie. So believe me when I tell you that I love the layout, the locale, the hip artwork, the staff and most of the snacks I’ve sampled so far. Definitely try the wonderfully scored kurobuta sausages bursting at the seams with spicy flavor, as well as the yummy vegetable pot stickers. And while the sushi rolls made with soy paper don’t have the snap of traditional nori, they’re still pretty darn good. I’ve yet to try the signature dish, ramen. I do know, however, that the noodles, available thick or thin, are a bit untraditional as they’re made with eggs. I’ll report back when I try them in one of three available broths. 150 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 702-405-9393, ItsyBitsyRamen.com.
The last time Japañiero’s chef and owner Kevin Chong cooked for me he was behind the teppan grill at Nobu in Caesars Palace, and the meal was outstanding. So I feel bad it’s taken me this long to try his new west-side restaurant. Having finally had a few nibbles here, I already love the place. Items on the printed menu are simple and extremely inexpensive. Be sure to try the black cod lettuce wraps (a play on a Nobu signature dish) and the Angus gyoza. But the real treats are on the ever-changing specials board. Be forewarned, however: Those can get pricey. I’ve yet to indulge with the hairy crab done three ways for $120, or live abalone for $80. But I enjoyed the much more affordable baby squid in miso sauce. 7315 W. Warm Springs Rd., 702-260-8668, Facebook.com/Japaneiro.
Yojie Japanese Fondue
There’s nothing I hate more than dumbing things down to make them accessible. Yes, shabu-shabu is the Japanese equivalent of fondue, where you cook your choice of meat by immersing it in a broth. But are Las Vegans so stupid they need it spelled out in the name of the restaurant? I don’t think so. Oh, wait—there is something I hate more than dumbing down a description: totally mislabeling a dish, as these guys do with the “sukiyaki” they offer alongside the shabu-shabu. That’s supposed to be a skillet dish, as opposed the broth-cooked shabu-shabu. But Yojie’s version is just a sweeter broth to dip your meat in. Despite my frustrations over the labels, I still really like their food. And while I haven’t tried it yet, they offer a chocolate dessert that appears to be a true Swiss fondue. But I’m not betting on it. 9440 W. Sahara Ave., 702-445-7008, Yojie.com.